Your immune system is your first line of defense when you’re battling a common cold, flu or other cold-weather illness. Your immune system helps you heal and stay well. To work well your immune system needs healthful foods, exercise and low stress. But, be careful because too much of an inflammatory response can lead to chronic (long term) illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and others.So how can you support your immune system and balance its response so you get and stay healthy?
Here are five healthy living tips you can use to boost your immune system:
1. Drink plenty of fluids.
Water is still the best thing you can drink. Each person varies, but aim to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. That can be hard to do. Your body get dehydrated after hours of sleep, so drink a glass of water right away when you wake up. If you struggle with drinking enough water, set reminders throughout the day or drink a glass of water before each meal.
2. Maintain a healthy diet
As with most things in your body, a healthy diet is key to a strong immune system. This means making sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.
In addition to providing your immune system the energy it needs, a healthy diet can help ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts of the micronutrients that play a role in maintaining your immune system, including:
- Vitamin B6, found in chicken, salmon, tuna, bananas, green vegetables and potatoes (with the skin)
- Vitamin C, found in citrus fruit, including oranges and strawberries, as well as tomatoes, broccoli and spinach
- Vitamin E, found in almonds, sunflower and safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and spinach
3. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep certainly doesn’t feel like an active process, but there are plenty of important things happening in your body when you’re not awake. For instance, important infection-fighting molecules are created while you sleep.
Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more prone to getting sick after exposure to viruses, such as those that cause the common cold.
To give your immune system the best chance to fight off infection and illness, it’s important to know how much sleep you should be getting every night, as well as the steps to take if your sleep is suffering.
4. Minimize stress
Whether it comes on quick or builds over time, it’s important to understand how stress affects your health including the impact it has on your immune system.
During a period of stress, particularly chronic stress that’s frequent and long-lasting, your body responds by initiating what’s called a stress response. It’s meant to help you handle the stressful situations coming your way. Unfortunately, this response also suppresses your immune system thereby increasing your chance of infection or illness.
Stress is different for everyone, and how we relieve it is, too. Given the effect it can have on your health, it’s important to know how to identify stress. And, whether it’s deep breathing, mediation, prayer or exercise, you should also get familiar with the activities that help you reduce stress.
5. Exercise regularly
Physical activity isn’t just for building muscles and helping yourself de-stress — it’s also an important part of being healthy and supporting a healthy immune system.
One way exercise may improve immune function is by boosting your overall circulation, making it easier for immune cells and other infection-fighting molecules to travel more easily throughout your body.
In fact, studies have shown that engaging in as little as 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day helps stimulate your immune system. This means it’s important to focus on staying active and getting regular exercise.